A literate, wonderfully written, alluring tale, the second in a trilogy (after Guenevere: Queen of the Summer Country), offers a subtle feminist interpretation of the Arthurian legends as it continues the story of Guenevere, forced to choose between love and duty for the sake of her kingdom.
Luminously evoking the sunny uplands of the Summer Country, the splendors of Camelot, and the dark woods where the evil Morgan lurks, Miles celebrates a woman, a queen in her right, and the equal partner of Arthur. Now in her mid-30s, Guenevere is both a mother mourning the death of her only child and a wife taking the measure of her husband—and finding him, despite his many virtues, flawed. Exercising her prerogative, as hereditary Queen of the Summer Country, to choose her own knights, she has turned in love to Lancelot, the Knight of the Sacred Lake, but she is also loyal to Arthur. As high king, he united the smaller kingdoms to defeat the Saxons, but in turn he is now threatened by jealous knights and the vengeful Morgan, his half-sister. A good but not especially intelligent man, Miles’s Arthur was seduced by Morgan and bore him a son, Mordred, the sole heir to the Pendragon dynasty. As Guenevere, accused of murder and witchcraft by the Christians, who scorn the old ways of the goddess, is put on trial, Merlin travels the land in search of Mordred, and Arthur is grievously wounded by a knight serving Morgan. He rallies, but Morgan, whose father was killed by Uther, Arthur’s father, is bent on more mischief. A distraught Guenevere sends Lancelot away and, heartbroken, visits the Lady of the Lake, the ruler of Avalon and guardian of the sacred treasures of the goddess. There, she is comforted by the Lady’s predictions and returns to Camelot, Arthur, and what is to come.
The best kind of historical fiction, with characters that ignore the heavy hand of history and instead live their own full and complex lives. A terrific read.